Retail Insights

A New Strategy: Individualizing Store Growth

In my last article, I talked about “Data, Data Everywhere” and how critical it is to simplify retail analytics so we can use the data to take the right actions to help more customers buy, and less time analyzing the hundreds of reports trying to figure out how. When we use data correctly, we have proven that we can develop each store based on their own specific needs…resulting in significant performance improvement and new-found profits. It’s a new way to grow!

I’ll never forget an energy filled conversation I had with a very successful CFO of a large retailer. I was sharing my approach of “individualized store development” when I quickly realized that after patiently listening to my theory he wasn’t buying it. He informed me that his one-size-fits-all, top-down approach is far easier to implement and that I should adopt the command-and-control approach which has worked successfully for the past 20 years.

I clearly did not make my case. But it was helpful as I went back to the drawing board on how to more effectively communicate this new approach. I learned that his point of view is highly indicative of where many leaders in our industry are in terms of how they think about stores and growing revenues.

Isn’t it time for a new approach?

That CFO’s one-size-fits-all approach from the corporate level down may be easier—for corporate. But is it better for the customer and driving new revenues? After all, in other areas of the business we have evolved how we think. We determine product mix on a store-by-store basis; we now apply various staffing models to different store types; and we use individual merchandising floor sets based on specific store formats.

And there’s the rub. With thousands of stores, tens of thousands of team members (who turnover at an average rate of 70%), and millions of customers visiting our stores—how do we scale an individualized approach of growing store performance?

This requires a new, more scientific approach, using new metrics and technologies. It must be done granularly, on a store-by-store basis, with rock-solid, accurate data. And, from my point of view, it must be “behavioral”— understandable and engaging for store staff to drive stronger connections with customers.

Adding further complexity to this challenge, each store’s needs change over time. What we need to address and improve today may be very different from what we need in six months or in a year from now, in terms of how to improve that store’s performance. So, is such “individualization” practical? Is it even possible?

Yes to both questions, and the first step is demystifying the “black box.” Until we can see inside the box, we won’t know the drivers of what’s actually happening. And, most importantly, what is happening in that store. Fortunately, we now have new tools that give us a new lens to see each store’s performance in new ways.

Click to See Chart Full-Sized

Click to See Chart Full-Sized

Once we can achieve transparency into our stores — each one individually — we finally understand the “why.” Why are customers buying more in Store #52 than in Store #252? And, what’s keeping them from buying in Store #252? Now, we’ll know the reasons for those missed opportunities and know what to do to improve.

When we know the reasons, we can use patterns to help us prioritize. Once we can see patterns, we can know what is getting in the way, what it is costing us, and what we can do about it.

What are the types of patterns we’ll see? In some stores, we see performance decline on truck day, and we can quantify what it is costing us. In other stores, we have a manager day-off issue that leads to performance shortfalls. If a store is short-handed or has numerous callouts, we can see how these obstacles translate into “missed dollars.”

Thankfully, there are not thousands of different patterns at the store level. There are a dozen or so key ones — the ones that tend to get in the way. The key for field managers is in knowing which ones are the priority at a particular point in time.

Using patterns to prioritize opportunities.

Now that we can see these patterns and put a dollar amount against each, it’s time to prioritize on what needs to be addressed to improve performance in the near term. And create individual Action Plans for each store that are transparent using automation.

Let’s be clear. These are not “to-do” lists like “straighten the fixtures.” Action Plans are targeted at the specific opportunities that are costing us money now, where we know the root cause, and know that we’ll get the return against that opportunity. The key is to make sure each store team is putting actions against their store patterns, and measuring if the actions are working to improve store performance. Now we can ensure that we all know what’s being done to fix the missed opportunities.

The power of automated Action Plans is evident in this message from one of our client Senior Vice Presidents to his field leaders, “Team, I cannot think of anything more important for you to be doing besides putting these Action Plans in place to drive the business forward.”

Click to See Chart Full-Sized

Click to See Chart Full-Sized

However, to make it “stick” and move the needle on performance, our Action Plans must be written, with specific intentions, and with measurements to track improvement. To be even more effective, let’s add “quick, simple, automated and easy to do.” This is the approach and philosophy we built into Blueday, our store performance improvement platform. Clients wanted the right action at the manager’s fingertips. Drop down menus are already populated with both common causes and prescriptive actions that managers select and the system measures.

Automated Action Planning makes the game plan to improve the “black box” transparent. Now, field managers can look inside the lower performing Store #252 and know what the teams are working on to improve and whether they are making progress.

The right actions to grow each store.

To summarize, with this new methodology each store sees its own opportunities and can solve its own problems. Everyone can feel empowered because no matter what their development need is, they’re able to take the specific actions at the right time, in the right department, with the right people. And they get the feedback they need by measuring their progress and seeing improvement every week.

yacobian3The implications are real—and huge. Our client, Advance Auto Parts, has just started rolling out Action Plans and has found successful plans are driving over $1,450 per week in incremental sales so far. They’re on track for adding $100-$200 million of additional sales this year just from effective, automated Action Planning. And they’re just getting started.

Managers make their bonuses. Organizations retain their best people and attract better talent. And the entire organization enjoys an upward spiral of performance improvement, with new revenues and profits that capture more of the omni-channel pie.

It’s a new way to operate. And it’s a new way for leadership to drive significant, incremental organic growth on a store-by-store basis.

[sws_blue_box box_size=”630″]For more information on the Yacobian Group please visit their website at Yacobian.com. [/sws_blue_box]

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